“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.” — Isaiah 64:4
“But we never go anywhere,” is my lament to my husband a couple of months ago as a ploy to wear down his resistance to attending a performance of the Broadway play Wicked in nearby Tampa. The second he says okay, I get tickets for a Friday night.
Parking and traffic will be an issue, so we leave at 5 p.m. for the 8 o’clock curtain and arrive in plenty of time. We end up on the fourth level of the William Poe parking garage near the Straz center. We stroll around and get something to drink and listen to some live music before we take our seats.
After the show we take our time getting back to the car because 2600 people are leaving the theatre with us and we have no reason to rush. When I turn the key in the ignition every light on my dashboard seems to light up but nothing else happens. Oh no! I try again and again. And again. Nothing. But…the lights come on. It can’t be the battery. We wiggle the key, try shifting into neutral. Bill pulls out the owner’s manual because there’s a dashboard light we don’t recognize. Security system lockout? What the heck is that? It has something to do with the key which the car’s security system no longer recognizes and we are locked out of starting the car.
We call AAA. A tow company dispatcher calls us back a few minutes later and says someone will be there in 45 minutes or less. So we wait and discuss what we can do. We are at least 40 miles from home. Where can we tow the car? Where will we go? There’s a Courtyard Marriott nearby. Can we rent a car to get home? I call a car rental company at the airport. They have no cars. A tow truck driver will tow the car but he’s not going to drive us home. Maybe we can sleep in the car…
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” –Matthew 6:34
When my human efforts to solve the problem go nowhere I pray. God, please help us. Help us figure this out. Send us some help. 45 minutes pass. Then an hour. No tow truck. I call AAA again. It is now 12:45 a.m. Within minutes a tow truck driver calls us. He can be there in about eight minutes. We clarify our location. He calls back. Which garage is it? Reiterate the cross streets and entrance. Can we come down to street level so he can find us? Of course! Finally we connect. The driver listens to our description of what went wrong. Checks over the car. Hooks up the battery cables. We try starting it. Sparks fly. It’s not the battery.
He tells me to sit in the driver’s seat and he cranks up the heat because he thinks I’m cold. I am not. But it’s a kind gesture.
The driver, Carl, asks what we want to do. We describe our logistics problem. Carl wasn’t planning on taking a call and his 10-year-old son is asleep in the truck.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” –Psalm 37:7
Carl says the first tow company got the call and “waved it off” because they didn’t want to do it. The second call got passed to him and even though he’s been up for 17 hours, he’s not going to leave us stranded. He calls his wife to come pick up his son and we agree even though a tow home will cost us it’s cheaper than trying to get a hotel room and renting a car. Carl can drop the car off at our local car dealership on the way.
I watch how he hooks my car up to the truck because I’ve never seen it done. I never know what might be useful information for a book.
We get on the road and I ask Carl if I can interview him and he says sure. Our conversation goes something like this:
How long have you been doing this? Five years.
I figure Carl for late 40’s. What did you do before? I danced.
Like…Chippendales? Basically. But it was in Panama City.
What did you do before you started dancing? How did you get into that? Well. He hesitates before he says, before that I was incarcerated. For fourteen years. But I never hurt anyone. Nothing like that.
Carl’s story unfolds. Father died when he was four. His mother was a cop. Got into trouble at 12. Was sent to the Dozier facility near Tallahassee. I wince. This place has a terrible reputation and has been in the news recently even though it’s been closed for years. Kids disappeared from there. Kids died there. Carl’s description of the horrific environment and abuse there follows. But he was never raped. Later he says his mother molested him. But he had a decent stepfather.
In trouble again at 14. Doing home invasions with a gang of older kids. Kicking in doors and stealing cash and drugs. Dumping the drugs keeping the cash. Sent to prison at age 16.
Carl quotes the high recidivism rates for ex-cons. He hasn’t been in trouble since his release. He’s always been employed. He makes $65K a year and owns a home surrounded by five acres. Doesn’t do drugs and rarely drinks. His wife has a good job. Carl loves what he does. Carl is happy.
Carl says what he is doing for us he would do for anyone. Being trusted is important to him.
Carl, I ask, did you ever think you were the answer to someone’s prayer? Carl looks at me sideways. What do you mean? I describe the prayer I sent up as we were sitting in the parking garage. Waiting for God to send help. Getting passed over by the first towing company. God saying, just hang on. I’ve got something better in mind for you.
“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” –Psalm 25:4-5
We drop off the car and he takes us home. AAA determines the cost of the tow is $112, much less than we expected. I get Carl’s card just in case I need to ask tow truck research questions in the future.
It’s nearly 3 a.m. My husband wonders if Carl made up some of what he told us. Carl doesn’t seem that creative, but so what if he did?
We arrive at the car dealership first thing Saturday morning. The spare key starts the car. The other one needs to be reprogrammed. The service manager takes pity on us and cuts the cost by $25. It will be done by mid-afternoon.
Thank you God for the reminder that when one opportunity passes us by it’s because you have something better in store for us. And thank you for possibly another story idea. Oh wait. I already wrote that one.
#God #waiting #Wicked